Former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize ignored a Cabinet decision that the government's communications agency would roll out National Health Insurance (NHI) communication projects, in order to have an outside agency illegally appointed at a cost of R150m, the Special Investigative Unit's (SIU) has reported to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
News24 reports that the national Department of Health initially contracted Digital Vibes for the NHI campaign in 2019, which was when Mkhize reportedly pressured officials to appoint the agency. The work was expanded to include communications on COVID-19. The firm scored R35 million before the department approved its work.
In its report to Ramaphosa, SIU head Andy Mothibe said a Cabinet memorandum dated 13 June 2019 indicated that the Government Communications Information System (GCIS) would roll out the NHI communication strategy.
Mothibe said: "In the circumstances, it is astonishing that the minister, thereafter, contrary to the Cabinet memorandum, allowed Digital Vibes to be appointed by the NDoH for the NHI media campaign.
"In fact, it can be argued that he deliberately ignored a Cabinet decision of which he formed part. At the end of February/March 2020, the GCIS was again tasked by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) to do the COVID-19 awareness campaigns for the government.
"Again, it is inexplicable why the minister allowed the 'extension' of the Digital Vibes service level agreement with the NDoH for the NHI media campaign to include the COVID-19 media campaign. It would have been far more cost-effective if the GCIS had rendered the required services."
According to him, Mkhize indicated "protracted discussions " had taken place, and he was satisfied costing had been done. Mothibe said SIU investigators could, however, find no evidence or documentation indicating the existence of such a costing, adds News24.
"Two contracts amounting to R176 million [R141 million for the NHI media campaign and the R35 million quotation accepted for the COVID-19 media campaign], were entered into in highly irregular circumstances and in direct conflict with public procurement prescripts," he added. Additionally, the department spent R125 million on the COVID-19 media campaign.
"That a quotation of only R35 million for these services was approved… a distinct lack of oversight on the part of the minister in respect of the NDoH [national Department of Health] for which he is accountable. Evidence indicates a conflict of interests on the part of the minister in that his friends or associates under the guise of Digital Vibes were unlawfully and irregularly appointed by the NDOH,” Mothibe said.
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